My chosen title is a somewhat appropriate and will explain a little of my disappearance from my more frequent bush updates of the past and office life in Arusha! Before I turn to the rhythm and blues of the bush I feel after such a great season and my silence, some time is needed and should be dedicated to “Bush, Beach and Mountain” feedback, recent stories and highlights.
June, July and August for me personally seem to have merged into one long safari of a different pace of life. A new experience for me in meeting and hosting clients largely after they have been up Mt Kilimanjaro or spent a night or two in “The elephant playground of the north namely Tarangire. For B2B followers of old and new then places and names “have not been changed to protect the innocent” the aim is to blow the dust off a few deep-rooted memories, teleporting you back to East Africa where the sunsets perform daily and every meeting with a Tanzanian is guaranteed with a genuine friendly smile.
June – it started with the coming and going of Tanzania’s annual “Karibu” tourism trade fair. Already being super busy in preparation for the fast approaching safari, climbing and beach season the date of this fair for one reason and many crazy others was pushed back taking us deeper into June and closer to D-day when our operations are run like a special forces “seal” strike team – without the guns and explosives I should add. Logistics in place the long rains running the course turning the bush into a swash of lush green whichever way you turned. Fortunately the wildlife fall into the own pattern and continue obviously to the 500+ tour companies busing themselves back in Arusha ready for the mass departure, heading out like a swarm of locust steadily northward. When you think about it!! this is just as well for all concerned that wildlife in general are not bothered by cameras and 4 x 4 vehicles as game drives would be a totally different ball game all together?? Imagine the consequences if you were to come across a camera-shy leopard that hides him/herself due to having one too many spots 🙂 sorry bad joke…The migration performed like a well rehearsed play and moved in accordance to the months and the weather patterns that were laid out before us all.
Many returning safari clients had great stories of sightings of their times in the wilds of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and the open plains of Serengeti.
The 2012 season however has not only been about wildlife. B2B Kilimanjaro and Mt Meru climbers had many successes on both mountains and for regular Bushupdates readers who followed 81-year Jerry Martindale story then Jerry’s story is among many others who stood tall and proud at their own achievements in reaching the summits of Kili’s and respectively Mt Meru peaks.
On the cultural side, the young Layoni (Maasai) that over the course of this year have or are still going through their circumcision ceremonies where they climb up a rank in the Maasai scale of things leaving their cattle herding Layoni life style heading up a notch to Korianga status. After a 21 day stay in a kind of bush school with other Korianga they go through the Maasai lessons in life listening to stories and advise from the elders that drift through checking on the progress of these young men as they learn each and everything about Maasai culture and traditions. These young men will learn how to kill a goat and butcher it skillfully, along with tapping into the vein of a cow to extract nutritional blood without having to slaughter the beast. They also learn and identify the varying plants and trees that will be used for medicinal purposes diving further into the uses and cures. This way of ranking is an all important part and way of life to the Maasai and for these young men a most prestigious time where to have reached before they climb once again into full Morani warrior status. I suppose what in the western world would be call manhood generally celebrated at 18-years or 21-years depending where your anchor is rooted on this fine planet of ours. Past and future clients will observe many Korianga adding a splash of black and white variety to the road sides as one heads out to Tarangire, Lake Manyara and further into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
If you want to capture these fully decorated Maasai with the click of a shutter, you will need a good zoom as not to attract their attention!! Or pay over a little local hard currency for a more artificial posed setting. The below happened to me when one of our neighboring youths in full black and white attire and facial paintings waved me down as I was heading to the small town of Mto wa Mbu for supplies in the company pickup !!! I was not in any hurry this particular morning so thought what the heck and waved over the now running youth to grab a lift along with 6 or so other Korianga Maasai who were now in hot pursuit of their brother. As I waited for the last of the youth to get his robes on and grab his stick, I thought it was too much of a photo opportunity to miss so shot a few off with the phone ( so apologies’ on the low res: )
July into August – There have been several other events that have been happening during my long stay in the bush and although I have seen a few Maasai ceremonies in my time I cannot remember such an enjoyable day out and seen so many old traditions played out in one long day of eating meat, both men and women dancing, playing of games, rituals and of course drinking of warm, warm sodas, beers and local brew!! Due to the amount of footage and images shot during the day I will dedicate an update to the Maasai of Esilalei in a separate shout out.
Now returning to Wildlife sightings – both day and night proved worthy times to head out into the wilds with a couple of great stories than need mentioning. We had many clients who had opted for the exciting night drive safari returning to Arusha or sitting with me around the camp fire relaying close encounters with game large and small including the shy Armadillo seen several times on night drives out in West Kilimanjaro wilderness area where we take in our mobile fly camp. Along with several sightings of the bristling ball of spikes being the African Porcupine seen both in Lake Manyara and Ikoma area located on the buffer zone of Serengeti. Night drives as with game drives can be hit or miss but if you are interested in seeing wildlife that really come to life when others have entered into sleep/rest mode then a night drive is the best way forward in order to add the varying list of nocturnal walkers and stalkers to your growing wildlife list. The beauty of night drives is you never know what will be revealed or caught in the spot lights beam!! As everywhere around you is inky black adding that air of excitement and uncertainty to your outing into the Tanzanian bush.
Day time game viewing and sightings also have been keeping guest and driver guide pleasantly surprised also. Once again Simon Kimaro seemed to be in the right place at the right time or wrong time as with his last safari in Lake Manyara!! 🙂 Simon and his guest had stopped to observe a troop of baboon going about their busy schedule of foraging; they then decided that the front of Simon’s car or the bull bars would make a good climbing apparatus pulling themselves up into clear view with some on the bonnet and a few on the bull bar!! Whilst Simon gave a few explanations about these resident primates who appeared to be busing themselves with one thing and another?? One of the guests started to laugh and ask Simon “isn’t that one of your spot light covers??” To Simon’s surprise and dismay these scheming baboon were casually striping the front of his car and after Simon took semi chase discovered that not only one of the three covers had been removed but two of them!!. The baboon soon made it to safe ground some 10 foot above Simons head and casually chewed on one of the covers adding insult to injury whilst clients took many photos and laughed so much with Simon about the affair. The joking made it back to camp where I joined in on the fun, telling Simon I was having none of it without an official police report on the theft and photographic evidence 🙂 !! The series of images came forth before dinner and had me crying with laughter as a juvenile baboon played and toyed with the chapati sized piece of canvas, chewing it and sticking it on his head like a lopsided French beret.
Simon once again on a separate trip came up trumps for one family as they had missed the black rhino in the Ngorongoro crater as sometimes is the case when these rare beast head into the surrounding forest for days at a time leaving the crater void of these nonchalantly grazing 2000 kg mowing machines. Simon’s day could not have started off better as he was heading to Serengeti close to Moro kopjes!! There larger than life was a black rhino standing out in the open for all surprised and delighted safari goers. Tanapa (Tanzania National Parks) were soon at the scene and gently steered and guided this individual back to safer and more protected/restricted areas of the park. As I had mentioned in an earlier shout out, poaching is still very present in East Africa and unfortunately the black rhino horns are a prized trophy in the Asian market. To round off Simon’s success stories for this season and we still have a long way to go before it is over, he also came across African wild dogs deep down south in Tarangire N.P. What a great sight to see without a shadow of a doubt especially up in the northern safari circuit, Simons sighting is only the 4th I have heard of personally in 12 years. Tarangire and parts of north-eastern NCA leading into Serengeti also produce sightings from time to time of this allusive pack animal, Maasai usually spotting them as they graze their live stock outside the parks boundaries.
The southern parks and reserves namely Ruaha and Selous are fortunate enough to hold some good size pack numbers that do reveal themselves a little more often for game viewers. I have seen them several times whilst based in the south and still remember sharing a 206 Cessna light aircraft with a Chinese businessman that was heading into Ruaha. I have seen some camera gear in my time but when the length of his lens took up nearly the width of this small aircraft pushing him hard against the cabin whilst shooting out the opposite window!! One can only imagine we are talking some serious magnification here. After landing I tried to make conversation with him but due to my knowledge of Mandarin being seriously below zero I let him try the broken English he knew on me. All I could make out was that it was his 6th trip to Ruaha!! Again an impressive number of visits to Tanzania let alone one National park and all he wanted to see was Wild dog, as he continued to chant to me in a heavily accented Chinese/English drone – as I could see the conversation going no further than Wild dogs, I wished him all the best in seeing his chosen species of wildlife and left him once my ride had arrived with his giant lens out on a deserted airstrip with a few Tanapa officials.
My time out in the bush is also not over but over the months B2B’s new officially opened “Isoitok Manyara camp” has been moving at a snail pace toward completion, I know I will have more time on my hands to bring the updates to a more regular affair once more.
I will leave you with a “funny only in TZ image” that caught my eye whilst purchasing materials near Lake Manyara, look carefully at the GENTS sign – opps !! the painter either needs more wall or smaller writing that started further back or was he trying to tell us something ?? GENTLE – LADIES TOILET, perhaps it was just my warped mind running wild with me under the hot Tanzanian sun.
And for those that have spent an evening or two with me at Isoitok camp, a little reminder of the sunsets that had passed us by.
“Karibuni Tena” (you’re all welcome again)